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Top U.S. military official to visit Beijing

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the top U.S. military official, will visit China this week, signaling  diminishing strains in military ties between the two giants.
/ Source: Reuters

American’s top military officer will visit China this week in a sign of improving military ties between the two major powers after a period of strain.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet the communist state’s military leaders to discuss increasing contacts, defense officials said.

Myers met with Japanese military officials in Tokyo on Monday on the first leg of a week-long trip that will take him to Mongolia, China and Australia before returning home on Sunday.

U.S. defense officials said the Beijing visit was a sign of warming ties after a 2001 collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. Navy reconnaissance plane in international air space off China plunged military relations into a deep freeze.

China’s defense minister visited Washington in October and U.S. defense officials said at the time that the two countries planned to increase military exchanges at all levels in 2004.

In Beijing, U.S. officials said, Myers will meet with his Chinese counterpart and was expected to discuss North Korea, Taiwan and other issues.

Before flying to Beijing, Myers was to make the first visit to Mongolia by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Defense officials said he would thank the Mongolians for sending a company of peacekeeping troops to Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has not visited China since he became secretary nearly three years ago.

Rumsfeld was furious over the 2001 collision incident in which the damaged U.S. Navy EP-3E reconnaissance plane landed on China’s Hainan Island and China held the 24-member crew for 11 days.

When he visited Washington in October, Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Rumsfeld discussed a range of issues, including bilateral military relations and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Cao, who also met with Myers, became the first Chinese defense chief to visit the Pentagon since 1996.